Fiction Seminar with Sean O'Reilly in association with The Stinging Fly

Fiction Seminar with Sean O'Reilly in association with The Stinging Fly

Starts: Saturday 21 April 2018
Time: 10.30am - 4.30pm 
Duration: 1 Day
Cost: €60/€50 Members

Narration: Point of view

The house of fiction has many windows but only two or three doors.” — James Woods

The choice of narrative point of view is probably the biggest decision a writer will face when composing a story. Narration is concerned not only with organisation of the elements of the plot, but also with the weight and significance given to the character’s consciousness in the story, the relationship between their outer and inner life. In this seminar, we will try to look more closely into these narrative decisions; what it really means today to tell a story in the first person for example, or how to fully exploit ironic distance in the free indirect style or why a writer might choose to stay entirely on the surface of a character, keeping silent about their interior world, whatever that may be. The purpose of the seminar is to deepen our understanding of the range of possibilities of narrative point of view available to the contemporary writer, within a full story and within the sentence itself.  

Session 1

We will focus on the first-person point of view, what Henry James called the “romantic privilege,” asking what type of story might be best suited to its limited and intimate focus. Stories are told for many different reasons. The teller may not be aware of why they are speaking, or they may be trying to throw us off the scent. A story teller not only risks being believed but also is in danger of exposing something the act of speaking was an attempt to keep hidden. We will discuss the texture of the unique voice in control of the story, the notion of accidental truth, and the relationship between communication and concealment. 

Session 2

We will discuss the full range of opportunity for point of view from omniscience, and distant third person to the hall of mirrors called the free indirect style. The contemporary writer must make the most of not only the long shot and the close-up but also judge the amount of access given to the characters interior life. What is the nature of consciousness in fiction, the self created entirely of words, the conflict with stranger within? Irony, the reader’s appetite for it, the writer’s attempt to orchestrate it, will be a central theme.   


Participants will be expected to do some reading. Material will be distributed by email beforehand.

Bio: Sean O’Reilly is the author of the short story collection, Curfew and Other Stories, and the novels, Love and Sleep, The Swing of Things and Watermark. His latest collection of short stories, Levitation, was published last year by The Stinging Fly Press.